Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

What follows is a reprint of my lead article for the Vermont Conference's weekly email newsletter, E-KIT, published November 26, 2008.

The current financial situation (or crisis, if you're following your 401(k) value closely) has resulted in many of us feeling less certain about our future. As often happens in these circumstances, folks "pull in the reins" and reduce spending on non-essentials. The spike of oil prices above $140 a barrel earlier this year caused some frantic number crunching in our local churches as the cost to heat sanctuaries this winter seemed unbelievably high. Other congregations are already bracing for reduced giving in the coming year.

To be honest, I'm not really a "glass half full" or "glass half empty" person. Troubleshooter that I am, I'm more of a "the glass is twice as big as it needs to be" person. But having said that, I also know that our God is a God of Abundance, not scarcity! And God will fill our glass - how big it is, is up to us. And we, as Stewards of God, must give from that spirit of abundance, not from a place of fear.

This week there were plenty of reminders of people who know this to be so. An Associated Press article provided many reasons to be hopeful, including:

· In Seattle, Boeing Co. employees tripled their cash donations this year to Northwest Harvest, operator of Washington's largest food bank. And every week, Northwest Harvest spokeswoman Claire Acey says, companies call to say their employees have decided to skip their holiday party and buy food for the hungry instead.

· Contributions to American charities have increased during 39 of the past 40 years in today's dollars, and a change in the tax laws _ not the stock market crash _ can be blamed for the drop in 1987, said Melissa Brown, associate director of research for The Center on Philanthropy. Between 69 and 72 percent of people give routinely, she said.

· A survey released this week by Federal Way, Wash.-based World Vision indicates that 2008 could actually be a better-than-usual Christmas for the nation's charitable organizations. The telephone survey, conducted in late October by Harris Interactive, found that seven in 10 adults plan to spend less money on holiday presents this year, but about half say they are more likely to give a charitable gift than a traditional present such as clothing or an electronic toy.

Now, I'm not a Pollyanna, and I know we face some difficult decisions in both our local churches and at the Conference about our expectations for income in the coming years. But I would encourage you to faithfully explore (it's amazing how different the world looks through the prism of the Spirit) new and exciting ways to be "church", and not to spend too much time worrying and bemoaning our future. The worrying doesn't help - and the time spent moaning is better spent in prayer.